Since You Brought It Up: Downshifting

since you brought it up

By Lauren Kodiak It’s been six months since I finished school. From kindergarten to graduate studies, I never stopped—never took a moment to breathe, reflect or reassess. You see, after four years of college, you’re supposed to have it all figured out. During my senior year, I began to dread the impending doom that post-grads feel when searching for jobs. I needed a goal, something to keep working towards, so I applied to graduate schools to study Higher Education (because, hey, that sounds promising). A few short months after graduation, I boarded a plane to Portland, Oregon, leaving my family and friends behind in Connecticut, where I’d lived my first 22 years.

Throughout my two-year grad program, I noticed an internal shift. I took things a little less seriously, slowed down and appreciated quiet moments alone where I could be with my thoughts. I even started a personal blog, something I never thought I’d do, and each post felt more therapeutic than the last. This, of course, made room for pesky feelings to bubble up, feelings that confirmed I wasn’t as passionate about this field as I had originally hoped. Still, I made an effort to savor my last years as a student, and trudged on to graduation.

And here I am, six months out, and though I’ve felt pangs of that post-grad doom, I’m surprisingly calm. I work two part-time jobs—one (that uses my degree) to pay the bills, another (a writing gig for a local publication) that doesn’t feel like a job at all. I've become quite taken with stringing words together, fitting each one in its exact place to complete a puzzle of sorts. I don’t have it all figured out, by any means, but I am energized and hopeful about following this creative outlet to see where it leads.

But as I’m getting ready to head home for the holidays, self-doubt has started to creep in. Will others judge me for “wasting my degree” if I abandon Higher Education for a little while, or altogether? Am I a fool to go for the less lucrative or stable career? I realize that most of this pressure is self-imposed. I'm working on being at peace with my decision, reframing it in a positive way. When people ask why I don’t have a full-time job at a university, I’ll pass on saying “Because the job market is so dismal,” in favor of saying “Because I decided to pursue another path.” I want to finally give myself the time to explore what I’m truly passionate about—but first, I need to own it, embrace it and carry it with confidence.

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We believe we can find more joy in the holidays by squashing the little voice that tells us bright spirits and good cheer are only possible when we’re perfect.  The magic of this time of year comes from connecting with loved ones near and far, reminding ourselves of all we have to be thankful for, and . . . covering everything in twinkling white lights. 

We’re embracing our present lives—foibles and all—so we can spend more time drinking egg nog and less time worrying we’re not good enough. Imperfect is the new black; wear it with pride.

Want to lighten your load? Read the post that kicked off the series, Ashely Schneider's Down, Not OutAdd your story to the “Since You Brought It Up” series by submitting it here